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» Repacking Portlandia

America’s most urban planning-obsessed city is about to get a lot more urban.

Residents of Division Street’s “Breakfast House”, protesting an eviction notice. via The Oregonian, 16.05.14.

"A look through the real estate stories in local newspapers, business journals and the Portland Monthly makes this much clear: there’s a construction boom going on in the city, and for the first time in a generation, it’s producing buildings that are truly, enthusiastically, sometimes ill-advisedly new. As Randy Gragg points out in that article series above, the boom is not unprecedented in size; the number of building permits issued in the city in 2013 is still well below the peak of the hot-burning early 2000s.

But what’s being permitted this time is different. Instead of more two-story homes with lawns, punctuated by the occasional condo, now we seem to be making almost nothing but urban buildings. City buildings. Buildings for people who walk fast and ride the streetcar and take taxis, and stay up late and order takeout…

"Portland is a city built on a dense grid of streets, with abundant sidewalks and closely spaced commercial districts. Its public transit system far outstrips that of any US city of comparable size. The growing preference for localism prompts many residents to look down the street for their needs, rather down the highway. These are the underpinnings of a dynamic, multi-modal city, and they’re ideal for supporting the kind of density depicted in the latest round of renderings."

read more: medium @carlalviani, 26.09.14.

Gentrification transforming face of Oakland.
"The housing market conditions are completely out of control, with no real accountability to the people who are being displaced," said Robbie Clark of Causa Justa. “These stark rent increases, people being forced to move far away and commute longer — these are not signs of healthy communities.
The Causa Justa report emphasized that government and the public need to do more to keep low-income people in their homes so they can enjoy the benefits of gentrification without being displaced. Stricter rent control and anti-foreclosure laws, more affordable housing and greater public input in planning decisions would help, the report said.
"It’s true, I’m beginning to see white people in (deep East Oakland). … The only reason it hasn’t happened sooner is because we have six shootings a day around here," she said. "The question is not whether this change is good or bad. It’s how do we find a balance, and how do we start the conversation?”
read more:  sfgate, 09.04.14.
» Oakland Mayor Quan unveiling her own 10,000-resident plan

"Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said Wednesday that she wants to attract 10,000 new residents to the city and build some 7,500 housing units to capitalize on the region’s hot housing market. 

Previewing her Thursday evening State of the City speech, Quan said she will announce her 10K Two plan, a proposal similar to former Mayor Jerry Brown's successful and popular 10K blueprint that brought 10,000 residents to Uptown and downtown Oakland.

The 10,000 residents who arrived under Brown’s plan are often credited with fueling the city’s restaurant and bar boom. Now Quan said it is her turn to attract another 10,000 residents.

"Jerry’s 10K was mostly focused in (Uptown and downtown)," Quan said. "We’re all over the city. The funding will also be along the transit corridors."

Quan, who is facing a tough re-election battle this year, said the city has to act quickly to encourage investment and approve construction projects while young families and singles are still fleeing San Francisco and other expensive areas for the comparatively low rents of Oakland.”

"Many longtime Oakland residents are worried that city officials might be so eager to attract new, wealthy residents that the community will lose its diverse, gritty character and become a playground for the rich and young, a complaint often voiced about San Francisco.

Fruitvale residents are already feeling the squeeze of high rents and housing prices, Najera said. Oakland saw rents and home costs rise faster than many other cities in the country last year.

Most landlords can now comfortably demand a high credit score and annual wages three times the rent and still find plenty of tenants.

"It is getting harder and harder every day for regular Oaklanders to be able to rent," Najera said, adding that many longtime residents are moving to Richmond, Stockton and other areas, often far-flung."

sfgate, 06.03.14.

increasing supply of market rate housing should keep lower-priced housing costs low, theoretically…

Undersupply of Walkable Neighborhoods

"A California survey found that, although 86% of respondents prefer single-family homes, 47% prefer a walkable, mixed use neighborhood; 49% would choose a smaller house if it provided a shorter commute; and 31% would choose a high-density neighborhood if it had convenient public transit (PPIC 2002).

A survey of Houston, Texas residents (Blueprint Houston 2003) asked, “Would you personally prefer to live in a suburban setting with larger lots and houses and a longer drive to work and most other places, or in a more central urban setting with smaller homes on smaller lots, and be able to take transit or walk to work and other places?” Fifty-five percent of respondents chose the “Central urban setting” and only 37% chose the “Suburban setting.”

The Atlanta, Georgia SMARTRAQ study found that only about 5% of homes in the region are in compact and walkable neighborhoods, and only 40% of respondents indicated that they could walk to any nearby shops and services. Yet, 20% to 40% of respondents expressed a very strong preference for the most compact and walkable neighborhoods (depending on which attributes were considered), 49% prefer a neighborhood where residents can walk to nearby shopping, and 55% prefer a community with smaller lots if it offers shorter commutes. About a third of metro Atlantans living in automobile-dependent, suburban locations indicate they would prefer a more walkable environment but traded it off for attributes such as affordability, school quality, or perception of crime. This suggests a significant undersupply of accessible, walkable neighborhoods.”

from Socially Optimal Transport Prices and Markets: Principles, Strategies and Impacts

26 July 2012 By Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute. [PDF]

read if you’re interested in the economics of transportation; the market failure/distortion/inefficiencies of the current system. 

» 5 urban planning challenges for downtown Oakland

Frank Ogawa Plaza aka Oscar Grant Plaza in Downtown Oakland

Citing Broadway Auto Row, which was redesigned 15 years ago and is about to undergo another facelift, Pattillo noted, “The city makes an investment in a public improvement, but they don’t maintain it. Within very short order, shockingly short order, they have to rip it out and do it again.”


…Taecker also stressed the need to build diversity into downtown housing development. “I think that’s a necessary corollary to building more housing downtown: it needs to be housing for all kinds of people. That’s what will give it vitality. It’s also what puts in place various stakeholders who will advocate for the downtown and for nicer urban environments downtown,” he said. “The upper-income housing can actually be the vehicle for building more low-income housing.”

“Oakland is still in a position where the powers that be remember an Oakland that was really struggling in the 70s and 80s, when we saw all that disinvestment in Oakland,” said Joel Ramos, regional planning director for TransForm. He noted that Oakland had tried and failed six years ago to pass an inclusionary housing ordinance that would have levied a fee on developers of market rate units to help fund affordable housing. “There was this concern that Oakland needs to do whatever it can to attract investment.”

oaklandlocal, 11.02.14.

» An ugly duckling turns back into Swan’s in Old Oakland

In February of 1995, Swan’s Market, the former home of a low-cost department store that occupied the block of Old Oakland bounded by 9th, 10th, Clay and Washington Streets was a blank, boarded-up block. Only the terra cotta medallions decorating the walls and the iconic Swan’s sign were visible. Many of the surrounding blocks were empty lots.

Yet Joshua Simon, a senior project manager for the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), chose to take Ruth Silber there on their first date. He had a vision for the property he wanted to share. “We were going to create a place that was affordable where small businesses could grow and thrive,” Simon said. “Our idea was to have 4th Street for the rest of us.”

It was five more years before the vision Simon shared with his future wife became a reality. EBALDC believed that, if Swan’s was to be the anchor for a vibrant neighborhood, it needed to include diverse elements, so it included affordable and market-rate housing, plus office and retail space. Financing and building the complex project took time.

When the Housewives Market’s original building closed in 1999, Raymond Gee, owner of Taylor’s Sausage, became one of the first retail tenants in the new incarnation of Housewives in Swan’s. He said it took some time for people to come back to the neighborhood, but he sees many reasons to be optimistic: “Now people walk their dogs. People walk around at night.”

read more: oaklandlocal, 24.01.13.

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